A chat with Virtual Reality Trailblazer, Eric Greenbaum

Eric Greenbaum Harpreet Wasan
Eric Greenbaum (L) and Harpreet Wasan (R)

Virtual Reality is riding on the latest boom in the technology sector, and one way Seidenberg is keeping up with the ever-growing community is through Meetups. These Meetup communities and events are an excellent resource for exchanging information, ideas, and joining forces with other trendsetters in the field. Just last week, Seidenberg CS graduate student Harpreet Wasan and CS PhD student Avery Leider attended the most recent New York Virtual Reality (NYVR) Meetup to interview some of the leaders there to see what’s new and improving in the VR scene.

One person Avery and Harpreet were eager to speak with was Eric Greenbaum, an original founder and organizer of the NYVR and NYVR Developers Group MeetUps. Greenbaum works as a patent attorney, entrepreneur, and start-up consultant, and has also been active as a ‘Virtual Reality Trailblazer‘ since seeing the 1992 movie Lawnmower Man, in which the main character becomes a genius through VR technology used to augment his intelligence. And although Lawnmower Man may not be the best advocate for convincing the world of the usefulness in VR technology — there is definitely an allure to VR’s range of possibilities! In fact, Greenbaum believes that with the introduction of the Oculus Rift, “VR is poised to take the tech world by storm.”

Harpreet and Greenbaum talked about the current expansion in the VR industry:

Harpreet: From the time you started with Virtual Reality, how far has VR come?

Greenbaum: The VR industry has grown a lot, since 2012 until now, from being essentially nonexistent to being one of the world’s most exciting technology platforms — kind of like the Internet. I think it is important to recognize that before the recent excitement, there were people working on industrial VR for the last 20 years. So there has been this whole movement, bubbling beneath the surface, of really dedicated scientists and engineers working on VR since the 90’s. It wasn’t until the cell phone industry drove down prices on screens and inertial measurement devices that enabled accessible VR for the masses. So, how has it changed? It changed from like 7 people in the grimiest co-working space in midtown to like 1500 people [in the NYVR MeetUp], and we’re packing out Microsoft on a monthly basis.

 H: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen in VR? 

G: The social VR is the most exciting; you saw some of it [at this MeetUp] and it is a little bit primitive, but it holds a promise to change the way we interact with each other. Imagine being able to sit in a virtual space with your friends from around the country or around the world and share and watch a movie or play chess or have that feeling of being together in a space. It’s really powerful and I think it’s going to change everything.

H: So, there are students at Pace University that are interested in getting into the VR industry – what advice can you give them to get started?

G: If you want to get into VR, the most important thing is to have an idea. What do you want to build? Before you start to think about what concrete skills you need to build it, spend some time thinking about what unique characteristics VR can bring to the table and how can I use that to do something amazing? Once you think about your idea, the tools that are available are really accessible. For example there is a program called Unity, which is a go-to tool to build a VR experience, and even if you have no programming experience at all – no gaming experience at all – if you sit down and spend a few hours with Unity you can make strides and build things. As someone who two years ago had zero experience, the experience of sitting down and building a space and then entering it in a virtual way, was one of the most transformative technology experiences I’ve ever had. If you haven’t done it, do it. Unity is free – there’s no reason to not do it.

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For more information about the Virtual Reality scene, stay tuned for other interviews we’re conducting with various members in the field! You can also head over to Eric Greenbaum’s blog to see what VR topics he’s currently discussing. Lastly, don’t hesitate to get going on the Meetup trend. There are a bunch of events coming up in the city, so let us know on Twitter (@pace_seidenberg) when you’re going!


Zakiya Sims is on a mission to grow PCS!

Pace Seidenberg _ Digital Cloud
Zakiya Sims at Digital Cloud

This winter break I embarked on a quest to make the Pace Computing Society bigger than itself. In the process I was faced with challenges and disappointments but (kinda) accomplished what I set out to do. Over the intermission I wrote tons of emails, made several phone calls, and attended many events. With these activities I’ve learned how to make meaningful connections and get out there to make things happen.

I started my journey with the goal of getting guest speakers for every PCS meeting. I began by writing emails to celebrities who have invested in startup companies. I know it seems like an unreachable goal but I figured if you took a shot in the dark you might hit your target. Well, I didn’t hit my target but I did manage to graze a few people nearby. I emailed the managers of celebrities such as Nas, Andy Samberg, and Leonardo DiCaprio. That was when I was able to find their email. It was by pure luck and great search engine skills that I was able to find some of the managers’ contact info which I doubt were reliable.  I mean I found Nas’s cell phone number in a matter of seconds…I don’t think it was his number. I did not get a response from their managers which was expected so I lowered my standards a bit.

Pace Seidenberg _ WeWork
The WeWork office space in downtown, NYC

Next, I contacted the CEO’s of big companies such as Twitter, Spotify, and Tumblr. Spotify was the only company that responded. The CEO’s assistant essentially said no, but that was enough encouragement I needed to get out there and email more companies. I then proceeded to email local startup companies. I figured if I got in the “I help you, you help me” mindset, companies would send speakers to us. In the email I asked them the send a representative, which would be a great opportunity to promote their business and garner users and revenue through our students. The next few days were followed by emails from the companies explaining how they were unable to speak at our meetings. I did get some success, however. Someone from the partnership department at WeWork contacted me and forwarded the email to the Director of Business Development there! He was willing to speak for our first meeting. Next came several speakers from companies such as BuzzFeed, General Assembly, HATCH, UNICEF, Strolby, IBM, and Uncubed who were willing to come. With every person that responded there were two companies that didn’t and with every one that did responded, half said no. There were some people that said they were willing to speak at PCS but when I sent an email to follow up they never responded.

With several speakers confirmed for the spring semester my next step was to broaden our audience and reach people who weren’t PCS members to have them attend our meetings. One way to do this was to contact local high schools. I tried a few but they declined the offer. However, the adviser of the Girls Who Code chapter at Brooklyn Tech offered me hope. They weren’t able to attend our meetings because of the conflicting times, but offered for me to speak at their first meeting. We were allowed only 3 minutes, so we had to be concise. Kendra, vice-president of PCS, and I went there and delineated what Pace University had to offer in NYC and the tech field, and explained the Stem Camp and Summer Scholars program. Afterwards we offered them gifts. The teacher was very grateful and told me to send her more information on the summer programs. That event made me feel as though the publicizing of our club was an essential way to get us known to people who would not have known us otherwise. This motivated me.

Pace Seidenberg _ Brooklyn Tech
Zakiya Sims at Brooklyn Technical High School

My next mission was to get our name out there. I sought to do this by creating the PCS website and promoting the club’s events on Facebook page and Eventbrite. I also attended a Women Who Code front end development discussion group with Kendra. There we met female software development and coded in JavaScript… and raided their refrigerator. We were able to get the business card of one the employees which could be a potential opportunity. I continue on with the goal by accompanying Wilfredo, project manager for Seidenberg and Kendra to the WeWork headquarters. We got a tour from our first speaker, Jesse Middleton. He talked to us about the company’s goal which is to create a community through the work spaces. He also told us that there were a few “fast growing startups” that worked in the building and suggest that we can get a group of our members to tour their work spaces. It seemed like a great idea as several of our members’ are looking for jobs.

The break is starting to come to an end but I still aim to continue finding more speakers, events, and business opportunities for the members of PCS. This week I was planning on going to a Lunch Talk where I will practice my sketch noting skills in order to glean information to pass on to the members. Furthermore, I will be going to Playtest Thursdays at NYU Poly to perhaps procure more attendees for our events and get more ideas and connections. In addition, I will be attending a hackathon, sponsored by Spotify, to gain experience and exposure that I will share with other PCS members. I would not have thought a few months ago that PCS would be where it is now but I pulled a few strings, made it happen, and now we’re known by a bunch a girls at Brooklyn Tech, the speakers I’ve invited, people who saw me steal food at the WWC meeting, and soon the world.

-Zakiya Sims, 1st year Computer Science at The Seidenberg School & treasurer, PCS.

Agile Explained

As mentioned in the previous blog post, Pace will be hosting Agile NYC for their 5th annual Agile Day, happening on the 18th. For most who have not been introduced to or worked with agile methodologies, the concept of the agile approach can seem a bit abstract, and  abstraction might be intimidating at first, but agile is something you’ll want to understand concretely before looking for work. 

Agile NYC Pace UniversityAgile NYC’s coordinator Joe Krebs, in answering a few of our questions about agile, mentioned that a company using the agile approach will expect its employees to be familiar with the methodologies before they are hired. So how does a student go from zero experience in agile to pro upon job-interview? (Actual representation of becoming an agile pro depicted below).

Well, you won’t have to be pro, but having some experience with agile will be necessary in your field. Luckily for most of you, gaining experience isn’t too hard around here, since Pace is one of Agile NYC’s closer partners. Agile NYC’s events are often in and around the university, like Agile Day on the 18th, and participating in these events will get you up to speed. Then, if you still want more practice, you can gain hands on experience by joining teams like Seidenberg Creative Labs, who will use the agile approach in their projects, or taking certain classes — an example of which being Dr. Scharff’s mobile software engineering class, CS 389 — that implement agile techniques on classroom projects. Having a rich understanding of agile will really give you the edge you need when employers compare you to you your competition.


Agile, in the simplest terms, is a product development methodology, specifically for programmers. Many careers in programming lead to projects where someone (or a company) will consult a team of programmers to build what they need. While the programmers do their thing and the ‘bosses’ do their own, often times problems arise from start to finish. The agile method of working through a project helps avoid a lot of these problems or provides simplified methods of solving said issues as they arise — and they will arise.

From its official conception in 2001, when the Agile Manifesto was created, agile’s values are described as,

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
Responding to change over following a plan.
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more,” (agilemanifesto.org).

This set of rules directly opposes the more traditional methodology known as the Waterfall method. Agile emphasizes the importance of personable teamwork that moves forward as a cohesive effort, rather than a group of separated workers working towards a common goal. To do this successfully, agile encourages daily meetings for teams to discuss issues before or as they arise rather than after. Not only are daily meetings valuable for avoiding issues, they also stimulate creativity and brainstorming between team members. More often than not, these meetings take on an informal tone and promote a sort of playfulness to offset stress or idea blockage.

Now that you’re on your way to becoming an agile pro, instead of wandering around next Thursday’s event, spending all your time learning what the heck agile is in the first place, you can now focus on the real meat of Agile day and feast on its workshops and networking opportunities.